Megan Jander//April 10, 2019
Megan Jander //April 10, 2019
It’s no secret that cats are finicky creatures, and products have been created to fit the needs of every type of feline. But as Shuri, the Marvel character from the Oscar-winning film “Black Panther,” states: “Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.”
While it is convenient that the Black Panther fits well into the cat sector, the superhero’s little sister possesses knowledge that resonates with anyone in a production business. And because she is able to take vibranium in its natural form and transform it into advanced, state-of-the-art technology that sets Wakanda apart from other civilizations, she effectively encapsulates the efforts of those in the pet industry. As the cat sector grows and changes, industry leaders are growing with it. In fact, they’re adapting, expanding their knowledge and basing much of their product innovations on feedback from cat owners.
“Iteration is a key step in good design,” said Jill Connolly, creative director for RC Pets. “The cat market is changing and with that comes opportunities and growth.”
By improving on already successful cat products, leaders in the cat sector are able to fine-tune their craft and demonstrate their capacities to engage well with consumers in a manner that is simplistic and effective.
Food and Treats
The food and treats category across the board is diving deeper into its roots, literally. Now, more than ever, there is a stronger demand from consumers for transparency in ingredients, meaning natural and fewer ingredients, with nutrition labels showcasing expanded benefits instead of additives or ingredients few people can even pronounce.
“We understand that pet parents differ widely with what and how they feed their pets, even within the cat segment. Some foods or treats work well for some cats but not others,” said Laura Bogart, senior brand manager for Tiki Pets. “It’s important for us to make food that not only meets or exceeds the latest nutrition standards, but also offers enough variety to meet the needs of most cats.”
Tiki Cat delivers natural, high-quality nutrition for cats in a diet that mimics their natural prey diet. Its products are high in protein, grain-free and contain low or no carbohydrates.
Stella & Chewy’s develops food for all pets, including picky eaters or allergy sufferers. The company uses only quality, sustainably sourced ingredients from trusted farmers and ranchers, and its latest wet cat food line has been reinvented with 100-percent human-grade ingredients that offers a complete and balanced diet for adult cats. The company emphasizes the need to help neighborhood pet retailers understand that there are different entry points into the pet food segment that will help them understand the customer needs and be able to better recommend the right product/recipe for their cat.
“Pet parents are getting more involved in understanding the various tradeoffs in pet food options and the impact this has on their pets,” said Molly Mulcahy, vice president of brand marketing for Stella & Chewy’s. “We pride ourselves on constantly working to better understand pet and pet parent needs and how we can evolve our products to deliver best-in-class nutritious options to allow pets to thrive in total.”
Vital Essentials’ Vital Cat food and treats are the “ultimate limited ingredient diet.” Its food and treats are made from single-source protein and contain no artificial ingredients, gluten, grains or fillers. Vital Essentials keeps an eye on the trends in human food purchases and consumption and advises others to do same, especially as the trends pop up in the pet food category and the gap between human and pet food trends is rapidly closing.
“Pet parents across the board are seeking healthier alternatives for their cats that align with their personal dietary preferences,” said Melissa Olson, marketing director for Vital Essentials. “And cat parents are nurturing their cats’ natural hunting instincts and are starting to serve smaller portions, increase the frequency of feedings, treat more frequently, and change feeding or treating locations in their homes.”
Other products that follow this trend are:
Toys provide interactive entertainment for cats and their owners. And toys should not only maintain the bond between them but enhance it, providing them with play sessions that are endless, healthy and rewarding.
“It’s all about making it more fun for both the caretaker and the cat,” said Kris Kaiser, marketing for DuckyWorld. “They need to feel that comfort of knowing they are providing a safe and healthy product while still providing their cat with something they love.”
DuckyWorld Products created its line of catnip toys, Yeowww! Catnip, with the focus on the quality of catnip. It’s organically grown, using only the leaves and flower tops while discarding the stems to be sure to include the parts of the plant that cats respond to the most. Having healthy plants translates to a blend of catnip that cats have a strong reaction to. Each DuckyWorld toy is filled 100 percent with this blend of catnip; there are no fillers of any kind.
“This packs a potent punch for all the eager kitties. We often hear that cats that have never responded to catnip before have a strong reaction to Yeowww! Catnip toys,” Kaiser explained.
DuckyWorld looks to improve its products by adding new textures like crinkle and with new shapes and sizes, knowing that consumers are seeking the very best for their pets while also looking for something new.
Other products that follow this trend:
Supplements are specifically geared towards maintaining and improving cats’ overall health. Refining them to accommodate new needs provides cats with an up-to-date product that further maintains and improves their overall health more than ever before.
“It’s important to offer high-quality products while continually learning, growing and evolving product offerings to prove to cat parents that their needs are being heard and met,” said Brittany Green, product manager for Tomlyn.
Tomlyn’s cat supplements have been developed and formulated with the guidance of veterinarians. Tomlyn offers a variety of supplements that support cats’ immune system, hairball elimination, joint health and more with a taste that cats like. By highlighting the importance of education and proper training, all levels of the company can provide knowledgeable content to all aspects of the industry, right down to the end user. The company emphasizes the importance of creating a solution versus producing another product, as well as maintaining a good relationship with pet parents to spot trends or note concerns. As pet parents ask more questions and draw attention to trends, more regulations can be put in place to better protect animals.
Putting animals first is the main mission of Earth Animal, which is very selective when it comes to sourcing for its products. It offers alternatives to insecticides and pesticides. Dr. Bob Goldstein’s Nature’s Comfort line of Zen products contain fast-absorption properties and are made with the highest-quality full-spectrum oils grown in the heart of hemp country, providing a therapeutic effect even for finicky cats. Even its popular Daily Health Nuggets were revamped by Dr. Goldstein. This is all because he took a spin on the available technology and ingredients for hemp.
“I have knowledge now that I didn’t have when I started in the ’80s. Improving it down the road is very important,” said Dr. Goldstein, co-founder of Earth Animal. “Transparency brings to life the sourcing of the ingredients, how the animals are treated, synthetics, chemical preservatives that can harm the animal and the natural options available. Keeping an open mind is important.”
“I think consciousness in our industry is changing. We have to match our consciousness to the consciousness of the consumer. We’re dealing with a highly educated consumer, who is demanding proof,” added Susan Goldstein, co-founder of Earth Animal. “Our industry is beginning to respond, which is a good thing for us and the animals.”
Another product that follows this trend:
From cat trees to cat houses to cat beds, furniture in the cat sector encompasses the needs of the cat, providing them with products that encourage their natural instincts and benefit their overall health. But they also are encompassing the needs of the pet parent by bringing forth more ease of use and modern designs that match or complement home décor.
“It’s important to offer products that give their lives interest and variety, products that stimulate and entertain and that build the bond between the pet and their person,” said John Gerstenberger, vice president of product development at WARE Pet Products. “We work to offer products that do all of this and that are consumer-friendly, from ease of use to affordability to ultimate cat satisfaction.”
WARE’s main diversifier is its commitment to safety, design and quality construction by using high-quality materials, like builder-grade USA carpet, and on-trend colors that are being used by home construction across the country. The company is focusing on serving every need of retailers, consumers and cats themselves by offering an assortment of furniture, from pre-assembled pieces ranging in size from 15 inches to 6 feet tall to ready-to-assemble pieces in manageably sized boxes.
“You never know what new solutions are out there to problems you did not know you truly had,” Gerstenberger explained. “Improvement is all about solving problems and making life better for pets and the people that love them.”
Sauder cat furniture is designed by product designers who are lifelong cat owners as well as furniture designers. All pieces are sized to fit cats correctly while careful thought is given to add in both functionality and fun. And all Sauder products are tested using strict protocols based on child safety and furniture standards to ensure the utmost pet safety. Sauder emphasizes the need to invest in the process of developing new products by doing thorough research, working with good designers and prioritizing the needs of consumers.
“Industry trends are key in keeping our designs relevant, as they are so intertwined. Our designers travel the world every year, staying current on home décor and pet trends that we work to blend seamlessly together,” said Mark Strayer, principal designer for Sauder. “Consumers and especially retailers should understand market trends so they can understand a manufacturer’s reasons behind material selection and functionality of products.”
Other products that follow this trend:
Collars and Leashes
When the time comes to venture outdoors, collars and leashes keep cats safe and secure. And since more and more pet parents want to take their cats outside, making adjustments to the standard leash and collar combination is becoming a necessity, not just a trend.
“If you are not consistently trying to improve your products, the industry will leave you behind,” said Michael Schrekenhofer, manager for Leather Brothers, Inc. “This is specifically needed in the cat accessory sector of the pet industry because there is constant change and needs that arise with cat owners.”
Leather Brothers Inc. has a line of leather cat collars, Signature Leather, made in the USA with a safety stretch band in them. The company also has a wide selection of other collar types and leashes in various colors and patterns that entice pet owners and add individuality and creativity, without sacrificing safety and durability. This is, in part, due to the company’s belief in asking and listening to customers because it is the best feedback manufacturers and retailers can get, which will translate to staying a step ahead in the pet industry.
RC Pets also prides itself on fit and function. The company has spent the time developing and testing products specifically for cats and their adventures. Its Adventure Kitty Harness has been a breakout success because it met a need in the market that wasn’t previously addressed. That’s why the company is all about real-world testing, aiming to get prototypes out to pet lovers because it is critical in designing great products. RC Pets encourages retailers to not be afraid to push on manufacturers for more information and education in order to feel confident in knowing the products and benefits to deliver and better serve consumers.
“More cats are getting outdoors with their owners and, as such, require products that service different needs than cat products of the past,” Connolly explained. “Much like dogs, cats come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so the one-size-fits-all mold won’t work.”
Another product that follows this trend:
Cats using a litter box stems from ancestral roots, and the right litter helps differentiate common behaviors from abnormal ones. The goal of improved litter products is to encourage and enhance their natural instincts, while also satisfying pet owners from undesirable odors.
“Consumers’ needs are always changing, as well as cats’ behaviors. Due to this, there’s always room for improvement or to meet an unmet consumer need,” said Jean Broders, brand manager for World’s Best Cat Litter.
World’s Best Cat Litter’s naturally absorbent corn and concentrated, long-lasting power set it apart from traditional clay litters. Consumers get the added benefit of safety for them and their cats because there’s no added artificial perfumes, colors or clay dust. Additionally, they don’t have to replace the litter as often. The company understands that consumers are becoming more educated and more aware of what’s available, leading to different choices and even spending more money to get more satisfaction or performance from their litter.
Dr. Elsey’s Cat Products is the only feline-focused and veterinarian-owned, original solutions-based cat product company that addresses the needs of cats and their pet parents. Its litters help with specific issues like inappropriate elimination, upper respiratory issues or stress problems. Its litters, such as the recently launched Clean Tracks, also have the core attributes that customers are looking for: low dust, superior odor control, hard clumping and low tracking.
“Customer needs are always changing—they want superior products with proven results for their cats,” said Gina Zaro, marketing director for Dr. Elsey’s Cat Products. “Product assortment is extremely important in today’s competitive marketplace; cats and their pet parents want choices.”
The PetSafe ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box is the only automatic litter box designed to be used specifically with crystal litter. The crystal litter absorbs urine and dries out solid waste for five times better odor control than traditional clay clumping litters. After 20 minutes, the litter box automatically rakes the solid waste beneath a covered waste trap. It also uses disposable crystal litter tray refills for easy cleanup.
“[We] seek to take the chore of the litter box out of the lives of cat owners and to keep their house odor-free,” said Jennifer Marler, category manager of waste management for PetSafe. “Staying on top of trends ensures that you’re meeting the needs of your consumers, and innovating and introducing them to new products that can better their life and relationship with their pets.”
Other products that follow this trend:
The products available for feeding cats are an improvement all their own. Feeders use the latest technology as an upgrade from the standard bowl to better provide food and water to cats, as well as ease-of-use and detailed information for pet parents.
“Sure Petcare products have been designed to provide owners with an overall picture of their pet’s well-being needs in far more detail than before,” said Dr. Nick Hill, founder and CEO of Sure Petcare, which has been producing smart pet products for owners and pets for 10 years. Its SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder is a microchip-enabled pet feeder that keeps food fresh longer and ensures cats get the right amount of food. Using the Sure Petcare app, pet parents can see how much their pet ate, how often and how much, as well as when they were fed. The graphs in the app will enable owners to identify any changes in feeding behavior patterns—which could be an indication of distress or discomfort and thus may require a veterinarian’s advice—far earlier than before.
“Changes can be identified earlier and the general connection to cats, or understanding of their behaviors, becomes greater,” Dr. Hill explained. “Working with customers’ feedback to constantly develop on existing products and new ones, to support both the needs of the cat and owner, are key.”